When I was approached to read and review A Man of Understanding, the new novel by Diana Janney I thought it seemed unique and touching. That was definitely an underestimation. I was correct about it being unique but I was not prepared for how this beautiful and poignant story completely captured my heart and stirred my senses. After being moved like never before from reading the evocative narrative I really struggled to read the last page as the tears in my eyes were distorting my vision.
In my opinion, A Man of Understanding should be classed as a modern literary classic. It is stunning.
After loosing both his parents in a tragic car accident, twelve-year-old Rufus is sent to live in the mountains of Mallorca with Granga, the grandfather he has never met. Initially I wasn’t too sure of Granga because as soon Rufus arrives at Palma de Mallorca Airport, Granga otherwise known as Horatio Hennessy, changes Rufus’s name to Blue:
“You can’t go through life being called Rufus – folk will think you’re soft!”…”From now on you’ll be Blue.”
“I’ve never heard of a boy called Blue before,” I said, trying not to sound alarmed.
“Neither have I,” he replied, but it suits you. Blue like cloudless sky on a summer’s day.”
I was extremely upset on Rufus’s behalf reading this, especially as the boy had just lost his parents, the only home he had ever known and now it seemed he was about to loose his identity too. However I noticed that my outrage towards Granga did not last long, in fact quite the opposite. Both Granga and Blue (formally known as Rufus) are beautifully constructed characters, rich, flawed and inspiring. The bond they develop as they carve out a new life whilst they are both in the throws of their own individual grief is truly magical. This is the heart of the novel.
In his gruff but witty and poetic manner, Granga teaches Blue ‘thoughts of different great philosophers and about art and how to appreciate good food and use your senses.’ He even takes Blue to Morocco for one evening just so he can taste, and I mean really taste his first tagine. I was envious of that, I would have loved to have tasted my first ever tagine in Morocco.
In his unique manner Granga is expressing his love towards his only grandson and a beautiful love, respect and friendship is built between these two rich characters. However there are some things that Blue cannot understand about his grandfather, including the hidden guilt Horatio feels about his dead daughter, Blue’s mother. Is Horatio on the self-destructive course of repeating past mistakes which will ultimately destroy the relationship with his grandson for ever?
A Man of Understanding is a stunning novel that completely pulled me in and gripped at my heart. Throughout I really felt for Blue as he tried to make sense of the world. My heart broke for him frequently, but I also felt the simple joy he experienced throughout.
And then there is the character of John Thompson, Blue’s best friend. Although a boy of few words, he brings so much to this rich, evocative story. I absolutely adore John Thompson.
Thank you Anne Cater for inviting me to the blog tour of A Man of Understanding. Thank you also to Cogito Publishing for my advance, gifted copy in return for my honest review. This is a novel that will stay with me. To follow the blog tour and read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers, please see below.
A Man of Understanding was released in paperback on 7 April 2022.
Happy reading everyone! 🙂